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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

Should Dallas make a 'historic' $82 million housing investment? Voters will decide

Attendees hold signs in support of affordable housing in front of Dallas City Hall.
Yfat Yossifor
Dallas voters will decide whether to approve about $82 million in bond funds to help build affordable homes and housing for the homeless.

Early voting for the May 4 election starts Monday and Dallas residents will have the chance to weigh in on a $1.25 billion bond package. It includes what would be a record investment in affordable housing in the city if voters approve it.

Three of the 10 bond propositions include housing-related funds — Propositions G, H and I — that total about $82 million in housing-related funds, about 7% of the total bond package.

“This gives us an opportunity to be innovative. This is very historic for our city,” said Council Member Adam Bazaldua.

A coalition of businesses, nonprofits, faith leaders and activists spent months advocating for a far greater investment: $200 million for affordable housing and another $35 million for homeless housing and shelter.

While the final bond package includes much less than that, Ashley Brundage, Executive Director of Housing Stability at the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas who helped lead the Dallas Housing Coalition, says that the bond funds will help.

 “Housing affordability is impacting every single one of us, so by creating more units, creating more affordability, housing more people that are experiencing homelessness, it helps all of us,” Brundage said. “So I think it's really important to do that, to go out and vote yes.”

Dallas has a shortage of more than 33,000 affordable rental units, according to a Child Poverty Action Lab study. That shortage could more than double by 2030, putting stress on more middle-income Dallasites.

Homeownership has moved out of reach for many middle-class residents in a lot of the city as home prices spiked during the pandemic and stayed high.

There are a lot of misconceptions of what affordable housing looks like and who it is for, Brundage said. These days, she said new subsidized housing is built into mixed-income developments that include market-rate units alongside subsidized, lower-cost ones. It takes the form of apartment complexes, duplexes and triplexes, condos, town homes and detached single family homes.

“Affordability is not your rundown apartment complex that everybody pictures in their minds because that's what we see on movies,” she said.

The funds, if approved, would likely serve middle- and lower-income residents, whether that’s subsidizing some apartments in a new luxury building so that waiters or day care workers can afford to move in, or helping teachers and firefighters buy a brand new home near the school or fire station where they work.

Adam Bazaldua represents Dallas City Council District 7, which includes parts of southern and eastern Dallas
Christopher Connelly
Adam Bazaldua represents Dallas City Council District 7, which includes parts of southern and eastern Dallas

The bond proposals include two prongs to getting more affordable housing onto the market.

About half of Proposition G, which covers economic development projects, is directed toward housing. The $36.6 million would be used to help developers finance projects that include some affordable units. Essentially, if a developer is going to build an apartment complex or a new subdivision, they could apply for these city funds. In exchange, they’d price some of the apartments or houses below market rate.

Then there’s $26.4 million in Proposition H — the housing proposition — that will pay for infrastructure upgrades that make it less expensive for a developer to build on a site, and then the developer will sell or rent some of those homes to folks who couldn’t otherwise afford them.

Bazaldua said using bond money to make expensive infrastructure investments is especially important in much of southern Dallas, where redlining and disinvestment have led to greater infrastructure needs.

“It's very hard for us to have an expectation for builders to bring these products to an affordable price range if we're expecting them to fabricate an entire new street system or water infrastructure,” Bazaldua said.

The third housing-related proposition, Prop I, is focused on reducing homelessness. It’d pay to upgrade the Bridge homeless shelter, and put at least $6.7 million dollars into long-term supportive housing for unhoused people moving into apartments of their own.

The bond proposals aren’t without their critics, though.

Taxpayers will pay about $51 million in interest if the full $1.25 billion bond package gets approved, and a lot of people don’t like that. Passing the bond measures won't increase taxes, though.

Council Member Cara Mendelsohn came out against the housing bond proposition specifically and said she’s not endorsing the funding for economic development and homelessness. She said the city should use other programs and funding sources to address the city’s housing needs.

“We have more than a dozen housing development tools at our disposal that don’t require directly taxing our residents. Some are federal and state programs, city tax abatements, density bonuses and use of the Dallas Housing Finance Corp., which can issue bonds repaid by the rent received on the units,” Mendelsohn wrote in a Dallas Morning-News editorial.

But advocates say those programs aren't enough to meet the city's growing housing needs on their own, and the bond investment will help fill the gaps.

They also point out that the Austin, Denton, Houston and San Antonio have all used bond funds to build new housing or help people repair their homes. Fort Worth is considering it for a 2026 bond.

Brundage points out that bond money for affordable housing function a bit differently than other bond funds. Instead of the city covering the entire cost of building a new house or apartment complex like it would pay for a new fire station, the bond funds would act as a force multiplier that attracts private investment.

One study of Austin’s bond programs found that developers spent roughly $6 in private funds for every $1 of city bond funds.

Got a tip? Christopher Connelly is KERA's One Crisis Away Reporter, exploring life on the financial edge. Email Christopher at can follow Christopher on Twitter @hithisischris.

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Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.